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That’s Odd

What makes an odd number different from an even number? This isn’t like a Sesame Street kind of test. I’m simply asking why should three be more odd than six? Or eighteen be more even in nature than twenty-one. What makes a number odd or even, and how is it that from the age of three or four every child knows whether a number is odd or even?

Oddly arranged numbers in an Even order.

They might know what an odd or even number is, but do they know why? It’s strange. It’s bizarre. It’s well, frankly, odd.

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Happy Belated Earth Day

Dear Earth,

Oops!!!! I missed it yet again. I’m sooooo so so sorry ! 😦 I read about your birthday on Facebook last night and there were just so many comments that at first I was all, I never get that many people commenting on my special day, but then I like chilled out and whatnot and thought, well, at least I’ll try and write something pretty sick, but you know, from the heart. By the time I thought of something cool to say, it was like after midnight, and well, by that time, I thought it was a bit pointless. Anyway, Earth, you know I love you lots and lots. Although I’m betting you won’t see this until after the weekend because I’m pretty sure you’re recovering from a hangover this morning 🙂 (I noticed that you organized a little celebration at the bar.) Anyhoo, once again sorry about missing your birthday.
Take care of yourself, and don’t let the man push you around.

Lots and lots of Love

The Bay Area Brit.

P.S. That thing in Iceland with the volcano…awesome!!! You know, just to let everyone know who really rules the skies around you.

God Save The Sex Pistols

Happy Birthday Queen…We Mean It Maaaaan!

      Today is the birthday of Her Royal Tourist Industry, Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen is now 84 and the oldest English monarch, you know, like, ever. It seems that advancements in modern medications have offered a Royal an extended lifetime since the days of the Tudors and the days of “leeching.” The Queen, who even if she weren’t 84, is little more than a national figurehead, although, of course, a huge source of tourist income to her nation’s pockets. I remember well the Silver Jubilee in 1977 marking her 25th year in “power.” Oh, it was all very patriotic: red, white, and blue bunting everywhere, images of her Royal Majesty on anything that you might be able to sell in a gift shop….ooh what a fuss they made.

Malcolm McLaren–Don’t trust this man with your money!

1977 was also the year that punk not only broke out, but spat in the face of the British establishment. It was a familiar story of rebellion that parents of every generation had heard from their kids before–but Punk was different. It was rude, in-your-face, and anarchic. It was just not very “British.” And in 1977, it was orchestrated by a man called Malcolm McLaren, who was the puppetmaster to a band of rogues: The Sex Pistols. McLaren masterminded a publicity campaign targeting all the stale established institutions that made England a miserable place to be for its disenfranchised youth in 1977, and as such, with his band, was vilified for it in the media.

      The funeral of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren (who passed away earlier this month from cancer) will be taking place in London tomorrow. He’ll be buried in Highgate Cemetery, current home to Karl Marx. If anyone could convince Karl Marx that Capitalism wasn’t all bad it would be Malcolm McLaren, who coined the phrase “CASH FROM CHAOS .”

The Sex Pistols–Love them or hate them, they woke up a nation

      Never the one to mind receiving attention, even in death, McLaren’s body will be transported via carriage in a funeral procession (worthy of a monarch) that will travel through Camden High Street, Chalk Farm Road, Ferdinand Street, Malden Road and Southampton Road, before ending at Highgate Cemetery. Observers along the procession route have been encouraged to display “a Minute of Mayhem” in honor of McLaren as he passes by, breaking the tradition of solemnity. (Minutes of silence are usually awkward things anyway that are usually interrupted by a sturdy coughing fit or a drunken heckle and are often replaced these days with “a minute of applause” especially at sporting events.)

        I don’t know why they didn’t schedule the funeral on the Queen’s birthday. It doesn’t make sense. McLaren went after the monarchy, and it would have been too perfect, one last parting two-fingered salute. Ridiculing the monarchy just wasn’t something you did publicly, even in 1977–but he and The Pistols did it. Although the days of a King or Queen decreeing a beheading for such things are long gone.

        Regardless of his riff with  John Lydon (who for the record I side with because, well he was the talent wasn’t he, and should have been rewarded accordingly) McLaren was important. Without his guidance, The Sex Pistols may not have been the force of nature that they were. Undoubtedly the music was there, but what separated them from the rest, was McLaren’s innate talent to market and keep the audience wanting more. And without the influence of The Sex Pistols, as history remembers them, music and fashion, as we know it today, would be entirely different.

Great British Heroes #121 Dr. Who

       This weekend BBC America ensured that British and American sci-fi goblins alike would tune in to their station by showing the premiere of the new Doctor Who season complete with, of all things, a brand new Doctor played by 27 year-old Matt Smith. If you’ve never seen Dr. Who, think of him as a hyperactive, genius/goofball, world-saving James Bond-type that doesn’t fight much and supposedly cannot die. He is a Time Lord and travels through time and space in an old, blue Police Telephone Box, which is called the TARDIS. If you’ve got an evil, cat-stroking super-villain to fight and need a Brit to do it, then you can summon any old quasi-hero to take care of business: James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, or even Miss Marple has been known to get her lacy cuffs a little dirty. However, if you’ve got a giant, volcanic ash cloud hovering over Europe harboring alien life in the form of mutant micro-organisms which are growing in size and number by the day preparing to unleash themselves on an unsuspecting Earth–then Doctor Who is your man.

Who can save us?

     When I was a kid, Doctor Who was by far and away the scariest thing we were allowed to watch on telly. I watched much of it from behind the couch. The show was peppered with scary-ass aliens, immense robots, slimy creatures from distant planets, and of course DALEKS! The Daleks were absolutely piss-in-your-pants terrifying. My eyesight was far from 20/20 and so in my terror-filled moments, I failed to notice the poorly made papier mache scary masks and space-age alien fabric costumes made of Polyester, Velcro, and used jam jar lids. My poor eyesight smoothed out the shoddy 1970s arts and crafts patchwork aliens. But Doctor Who always saved the day, and I pictured myself as the Doctor and even drew sketches of what my Doctor Who would look like.

Jon Pertwee, Yeah Baby!

     The first Doctor Who I saw on telly was the third actor to play the part. His name was Jon Pertwee and his version of Dr. Who looked like a cross between a silver-haired, wiry Lithuanian poodle and Austin Powers’s hypothetical grandfather sans eyeglasses.

      However, Pertwee was NOT the goofiest dressed Dr. Who by a long shot. Some of the Doctors chose their own outfits themselves from the BBC costume dept., and in an effort to make their own imprint on the role only succeeded in creating looks that would have poo-pooed even the kindest Project Runway judge…”Beezaaaaare!”

One day you’re in…
Really? I’m surprised the aliens on Quazark didn’t bludgeon him to death with a croquet mallet
I like where you were going with the waistcoat, but it’s too costumey.
….the next day you’re out! Auf Wiedersehen

     As I got older, the Doctors’ got younger. I think there may have been a brief cross over of about ten minutes in the late-nineties when Doctor Who and I may have been a physically comparable match in both age and appearance, but that was it, and thus my dream of being Doctor Who was crushed. The timeline was all messed up. If only I’d had a TARDIS.

The original Doctor Who…shh! don’t call him old.
Doctor McDreamy: Matt Smith–Not your father’s Doctor Who.

         Matt Smith has a lot to live up to, the previous Doctor: David Tennant was, by all accounts, the most popular Doctor ever. The show itself has seen a resurgence in popularity. Perhaps fueled by an improved special effects department budget, which went from like 30 quid a week in 1963 to 50,000 in 2010. In the premier on Saturday there were all kinds of clever twists and turns in the plotline and a scary, pointy-toothed, slimy alien monster that almost sent The Bay Area Brit scurrying behind the couch–again.

       And so for scaring the holy bejeebers out of kids and adults for years and years, Dr. Who is a Great British Hero. We salute you, good Doctor. May your TARDIS travel safely through eternity. Oh, and good luck defeating those Alien Volcano Mutants in Iceland.

© Matty Stone 2010

Dining With Elvis – Speisekammer in Alameda

    As some of you may know, Elvis Presley is alive and well and lives in a room in my house. Every month we choose a new restaurant to visit in The Bay Area. We eat, drink, and talk about the old days.

      It was Elvis’s pick this month and I gave my colon a pep talk believing “The King” would likely take me to the greasiest spoon in the world. I tried to talk him into selecting a place that served fish ‘n’ chips so that I might continue my search for the best in the Bay Area.

      When Elvis told me he wanted to check out a German restaurant in Alameda called Speisekammer, I was surprised.

2424 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, CA

     “Man, you know I like the wiener,” Elvis said, completely straight-faced.

“You like ‘the wiener,’” I said, trying not to laugh.

He said it again, and then upon realizing what he’d been saying, slapped me across the back of my head. “Make fun of an old man wouldya?”

“Sorry, Alan,” I said, using Elvis’s Graceland codename. “Let’s get a beer at the bar. I need to get my throat lubed up if I’m going to be swallowing wiener.” I shot Elvis a cheeky grin and he just scowled at me. “Sorry, King,” I whispered. “No more, I promise.”

       Elvis was stationed in Germany in the late 1950s and during that time discovered a penchant for real German food. We took our beers to the table and Elvis looked over the menu. “What the hell are ‘German Fries?’” he said.

“I don’t know, mate,” I said. “What the hell are French Fries? I mean they’re talking about chips aren’t they? I’ll tell you what, Alan, order some and we’ll check their little passports.”

Ketchup by Heinz?

       Elvis ordered the Bratwurst: two pork sausages served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes and mustard. When Elvis’s food arrived, I glanced at his plate and quickly looked down at my beer and smiled. He stabbed at a sausage with his fork and waved it at me. “I swear to God if you make another pecker joke…” God bless him, but I swear he makes more inappropriate jokes than anyone I know; especially when it comes to discussing his own “wiener.”

Two wieners, und I’m ze only plate, ya.

    Our “German Fries” arrived and as I suspected they were just normal fries, perfect in every way, though. Elvis asked me if I’d ever had Spätzle. “Gezundheit,” I said.

“No, Spätzle, you dang stupid Limey. It’s like Mac and Cheese, but for grown-ups.”

Spätzle is like a savory desert-treat

      In an attempt to still get some variation of my fish ‘n’ chip craving, I ordered the Gegrillte Lachsfilet which was a grilled salmon fillet with mashed potatoes, spinach and cucumber-dill sauce. The salmon was so fresh it tasted like it had been hoisted from a stream that afternoon. I watched Elvis inhale a sausage and wished he’d break his “no paparazzi” rule and let me take a picture of him. “Man, this is as good as I remember,” he smiled, as I wiped a little dollop of mustard from the side of his face with my napkin.

      The band began to set up their instruments, and Elvis looked at the stage longingly. “Do you think I should ask if I can sit in with them for a song or two.”

“Come on, Alan, you know you shouldn’t try to draw attention to yourself,” I said. “Anyway, we should be getting you back home. There’s a Golden Girls marathon on Lifetime. You know how much you love that Betty White.”

“Man, I sure do. Did I ever tell you I let her…”

           “Meet Little Elvis?” I interrupted, resisting the urge to use the word wiener. He furrowed his eyebrows a little.

“No, I was actually going to say ‘let her……beat me at Scrabble.’”

“Sure you were, Elvis, sure you were,” I whispered, as I helped him out of his seat.

For more background, read the first “Dining With Elvis” here:

https://thebayareabrit.com/2010/03/02/dining-with-elvis/

©Matty Stone 2010

British? Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

          If you live in a city, the chances are you have a friend who is British. I know what you’re thinking: “If one of my friends was British, I’m pretty sure I’d know about it.” Well, I’m here to peel the layers of ignorance off of you.

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Baseball vs. Cricket and Football vs. Er, Football?

     For some reason, if I’m watching a game in a sports bar in America, and a stranger hears my accent, he will, within moments upon discovering I’m British, tell me what he thinks of soccer and (or) cricket. It almost always goes a little something like this: “Soccer is boring, and I don’t understand cricket.”

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It’s Whacky Over-The-Hump Cartoon Day…or is it?

After Monday’s post-Easter blog (which received six-times more traffic than usual, thanks guys!) here are some cartoons to gently ease you over Wednesday.

Heeeeeere’s Jesus!

     It’s Easter Sunday!!! “Rise and shine, Jesus. It’s time to make a bunch of people feel really dumb for crucifying you.”

      However, if Jesus Christ really came back today, how long do you think it would take for us (as a society) before we crucified him all over again?

     I mean there are a whole lot of people in this country waiting for Jesus to return. If he did come back, would he use the name Jesus Christ? Or would he take the smart route and go by another name? If he claimed to be the son of God, how long would it be before Christians in this country started yelling “Blasphemy!”

         The Bay Area Brit doesn’t believe the man would stand a chance against the Christians.

           “Show us a miracle!” they’d cry. “Prove you are who you say!”

          And Jesus would be all, “I did all that nonsense last time around. You really want to see a miracle?”

        And the Christians would be like “Yeah, of course. How do we know that you’re telling the truth otherwise?”

        And Jesus would be all, “I’m the son of God. I mean seriously, people, I died for you lot and now you’re doubting me all over again. Talk about a deja vu.”

        And the Christians would cry, “But you’re not even white! Jesus was white!”

       And Jesus would be all, “How could I be white? I was born in the bloody Middle-East, you morons.”

       And the Christians would be all, “Did he just call us morons? Well this is awkward.”

       And Jesus would be like, “Tell me about it. I thought you–especially you rich, Southern churchy-types–would be happy to see me.”

       And the Christians would say, “Well we were, but we thought you’d be whiter…and well, you called us morons, and well, we don’t believe you.”

        And Jesus would be all like, “What about FAITH?”

        And the Christians would be all like, “Well we had some, but it went away. Things have been really rough since you left. Times have changed.”

         And Jesus would be all, “How can it be any worse than it was? Last time I was here there were lepers everywhere. Romans were running the shop like a fascist state, and talk about the plagues and whatnot. Remember all that from your Bible?”

      “Yeah, I mean we remember that. Look, listen, we were kind of scaring our children to be good on this whole ‘fear of going to hell on judgment day’ thing thinking that you weren’t really going to come back. I mean why would you? But if you are back, then we’re all in a lot of trouble. You see we prayed a lot, and we read the Bible, and we preached, but we didn’t practice what we, or even you, preached.”

        “What are you saying? Have you not been taking care of all of God’s children?”

        “Er, in a word, no. There’s a lot of really poor people in this country and we’ve kind of just ignored them and been looking out for ourselves. You know, taking care of ‘number one.’ Being ‘number one’ is kind of a big deal in this country. We know that you taught us that we are all created equal, but we kind of think that’s bullshit; pardon our language. We’ve got things kind of cushy and we don’t want to give anything up so that poor people have something.”

        “Well that’s not very Christian of you is it?”

         “Yeah, so…sorry, we’re going to have to crucify you again. You’re more important to us dead than alive. And we don’t need you coming back and making us all feel guilty because we’re a bunch of hypocrites.”

And…scene.

       This year, Easter Sunday was April 4th, the anniversary of the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King. I leave you with the final paragraph of Dr. King’s final speech, which he gave the night before he was murdered.

      “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

© copyright Matty Stone 2010

Let Me Play The Fool

        Shakespeare is like broccoli. You heard me.
The Bay Area Brit has always liked to read, but as a schoolboy in England, I was forced to absorb books that were way over my head. Instead of opening up to the world of Olde England as spake by 14th Century writer Geoffrey Chaucer, I gazed at the text wondering what I could do or say in the melancholic mire to keep my classmates and me entertained.

      l played the fool.

    I felt sorry for my fellow pre-teenage students, some of whom may have genuinely been interested in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, or Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or Charles Dickens’s Hard Times. At the age of 12, I couldn’t care less. Even if the stories had been interesting to me, what was with all that lingo? My sphincter puckered at the antiquated verbiage.

        I have recently come to appreciate “The Bard.” To me, Shakespeare is like broccoli. I hated broccoli as a child. It was forced upon me because it was supposed to be “good for me.” Much like Shakespeare was supposed to be “good for me.” In adulthood I have come to appreciate, and dare I say it, love broccoli and Shakespeare. I even like that wretched cauliflower Dickens now. I mean his stories are depressing as hell and I still imagine myself a victim of child labor forced to shimmy up a chimney to clean it every time I read him, but at least I get it now. Chaucer: you’re like Brussels sprouts and are dead to me and can rot. I know you’re “important” but you did nothing but ruin books for me for a very long time.

                  I recently read “Fool” by Christopher Moore. A book that is inspired by Shakespeare and British comedy. Moore is one of my favorite writers because he’s funny. He can tell a mean story, but in a way that keeps you on your toes. His comedic timing is as good (if not better) than any writer I’ve ever read. I was first introduced to Christopher Moore a few years ago after reading a book that he referred to as the biggest challenge of his writing career: “Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.”

If you haven’t read “Lamb,” and were kept prisoner in Sunday School as a child, this might be the perfect antidote to what ailed you all those years ago. It’s a brilliantly executed story that we are all partly familiar with. Moore fills in the missing blanks from The Bible about Jesus’ life, and does it in a way that even the most ardent Christian might concede believable.

I’m just saying that Moore would have made a great apostle were he offered a shot at writing one or more of the gospels. The man can spin a yarn. However, when I finally got around to reading “Fool,” I braced myself (somewhat apprehensively) for some Shakespearean childhood flashbacks.

I am often wary when Americans (Moore is originally from Ohio) try to delve too deeply into not only my country’s history but take a swing at the humo(u)r. British humor has its own unmistakable identity. To scratch the surface, it is borne from the works of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde (although technically Irish), P.G. Wodehouse, Tom Stoppard (who penned “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead,” which is Hamlet written from the perspective of two of the play’s secondary characters), Douglas Adams, and Pythons of the Monty variety. Fortunately, Moore is a fan of the genre and is influenced appropriately by the comedic gods from across the pond.

He researched Lamb by reading The Bible with an archaeologist’s toothcomb and visited Israel and walked in Christ’s footsteps.

         Ensuring Fool’s authenticity wasn’t something he could do by just reading up on Shakespeare (which he did). It wasn’t by visiting Britain (which he did). The heart of Fool comes from understanding the British sense of humor;  the language he uses is spot on. In the hands of a different American writer, the book might have been overly-peppered with jokes and schtick sold to him by a hackneyed Renaissance Faire Punch and Judy gag writer. Not so with Fool.

Fool is Moore’s version of “King Lear” as told from the perspective of Pocket: a black-clothed court jester, who is either fully loved or despised by the other characters living in Lear’s court. Moore acknowledges Shakespeare took liberties with timeframes and geography in his play, as he did. As to what responsibility Moore had to steer things back where they belong–the answer is none. As a consequence, Fool is a hilarious and oft bawdy Medieval romp which begs, borrows, and steals from a handful of Shakespeare’s works. Think of Fool as Shakespeare on Nitrous Oxide. Yes, the writer takes liberties all of which he confesses: there are cameos from Macbeth’s witches and Moore uses British slang and American euphemisms with a joyful abandon. At some point I remember vague mention of “the driving out the Mazdas from Swindon.” It doesn’t make sense, but why should it? It’s laugh out loud funny and satisfying to the end.

       On this April Fools Day, if you have a new-found love of broccoli, this fool urges you to seek out Christopher Moore’s “Fool.”